Early childhood education focuses on children from birth to about six years old. The purpose of these programs is to instill in children both specific and discrete bodies of knowledge (for example, math skills or rudimentary reading and writing skills), as well as an overall attitude and skill set pertaining to general education, such as organizational or communication skills. In attempting to ascertain information about the history, methodology and benefits of early childhood education, as well as what, if any, institutions or organizations provide early childhood educational opportunities, teachers, theorists, parents and others should ask probing questions about the field.
Questions About the Theoretical Background
Before you can accurately begin to understand the nature and purpose of early childhood education, you must first investigate the theoretical underpinnings of the field. For the most part, early childhood education is based in the philosophical, psychological and sociological work of Jean Piaget. Consequently, in attempting to investigate and understand the field of early childhood education, you could ask questions pertaining to Piaget's work and its influence. For example, "how do the five developmental domains (Social, Physical, Intellectual, Creative and Emotional, or SPICE) interact and influence each other?" You could also ask, "how do the four stages of cognitive development (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete and formal) inform and define educational practices in an early childhood educational setting?" Finally, you might ask, "what other educators and theorists have contributed to the theoretical underpinnings of early childhood education, and how are these contributions significant to the field?"
Questions About Methodology
As a practicing educator, perhaps the most important questions you could ask about early childhood education pertain to the practical application of theoretical principles, or praxis. Questions about methodology seek to define best practices for an early childhood educational setting. One question might be, "what activities can be employed that encourage a student to develop into a self-motivated learner?" Another may be, "how do you maintain student interest in an early childhood educational setting?" Finally, you could ask, "how should teachers use assessment to gauge student learning and inform future teaching strategies?"
Questions About Institutions and Organizations
If you are a parent or guardian seeking early childhood educational opportunities for your son, daughter or ward, you might be interested in answering questions about what institutions or organizations provide early childhood education. You might ask, "what schools or organizations in my area have early childhood education programs?" You might also question, "how are these schools or organizations connected to my area school system?" Additionally, because the targeted group, early education, is sometimes outside the purview of traditional educational institutions, you may be required to research the effectiveness of alternative educational organizations. For example, you may want to know "what standards do these schools or organizations employ in the course of their early childhood educational programs?"
Questions About Benefits
Because early childhood educational programs are identifiable as distinct from standard school systems, many educators and educational theorists question the overall effectiveness and importance of these programs. In attempting to ascertain the significance of an early childhood educational program, you might return to the theoretical underpinnings and methodology of such organizations in your line of questioning. For example, you may ask, "how do children educated in early childhood educational programs fare in comparison to children who were not educated in such programs?" You might also ask, "do children who came from early childhood educational programs perform better, worse or the same as children who were not so educated?" Finally, it could be important to ask the question, "what measurable benefits do early childhood educational programs have on students in the short and long term?"
- "The Complete Daily Curriculum for Early Childhood"; Pam Schiller and Pat Phipps; 2002
- "Theories of Childhood: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget & Vygotsky"; Carol Garhart Mooney; 2000
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